Perspective | Driving Mr. Connally: An Insurance Executive’s Encounter with Texas’ Former Governor
When the former governor of Texas came to Bermuda, I became his driver.
My Bermuda employer owned a number of corporate jets. One day, as senior officer on the Island, but more importantly the only Bermuda employee who owned a car, my instructions were to meet one of our planes at the airport at 11pm sharp. On board would be the Boss, plus two players to be named later.
I recognized one of them the moment he stepped out of Immigration. It was former Texas governor and U.S. Treasury Secretary John Connally. He was visiting from New York, fresh from speaking at an insurance conference, which, he said, had been a first-class experience. “If more people could be like those insurance guys, things would run a lot smoother,” I recall him saying.
Late at night, the journey from the airport to the company compound didn’t take long, even at the regulation 20mph. It wasn’t really a compound, just a large estate we rented. The Boss had the mansion on the hill but was rarely in Bermuda. I lodged in a cottage further down by the impressive botanical gardens.
As the sole regular inhabitant of the estate other than a gardening crew and hundreds of parrots in an aviary, I essentially had to myself several acres of manicured land that led down to the beach five minutes from town. At the time, I told everyone I’d never live anywhere so extraordinary again. Indeed, I never have.
The Boss introduced me to the governor as his VP, finance. We shook hands, and three large gentlemen, their travelling equipment and I crammed ourselves into my tiny 850cc Honda sewing machine and took off for town.
My passengers chatted and yukked it up throughout the drive. I said nothing.
Talking about operating a business in Bermuda, the Boss brought up the curious postal address system. Mail was delivered to your mailbox at the central post office, which meant your postal address could be anything you wanted, provided it included the mailbox number.
What you used as your address may have been irrelevant to the delivery of the mail but presented an opportunity to claim that your offices were in whatever impressive-sounding place you could think up. The Empire State Building of Bermuda was the best my passengers came up with.
Connally, his voice saturated with sarcasm, then asked the Boss: “Might your vice president of finance have a suggestion?”
Without really thinking, I said: “Why not call it The Biggest Building in the World?” with a heavy expletive woven in between “Biggest” and “Building.”
(Using and/or deleting expletives is something U.S. Presidents and columnists are allowed to do.)
The tiny car erupted. I thought the governor would never recover. I’d parried his sarcasm with wit, in a crass sort of way, but that wasn’t what so amused the three of them. It was the delivery of the cheap joke in my plummy English accent. It ain’t what you say, it’s the way that you say it.
When I dropped my cargo off at the Big House, the governor of Texas shook my hand and slapped me on the back. I was a good old boy. &